From ‘Dirty Dancing’ to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Jenny Winton joins local dance company
The Aspen Times
Jenny Winton has danced with the Joffrey Ballet and toured with the Broadway musical “Dirty Dancing” and performed in works ranging from classical to contemporary to commercial. Winton this month joined Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, where her diverse background will come in handy performing the company’s diverse repertoire.
Winton’s arrival is the latest in a series of additions that have transformed the acclaimed, locally based company in recent years. Of the 11 dancers currently in the company, seven have joined since 2015.
They’ve filled the shoes of retiring longtime Aspen Santa Fe dancers like Samantha Klanac Campanile, who left in 2016, and Emily Franc (nee Proctor), who retired this spring. The fresh faces are ushering in a new era for a company at which dancers often stick around for long stretches and entire careers. They’re performing alongside Aspen Santa Fe stalwarts like Katherine Bolanos — a company member since 2004 — and Seia Rassenti and Joseph Watson, who are in their 10th season here.
Winton arrived in Aspen two weeks ago and immediately jumped into rehearsals for summer performances of Alexander Ekman’s “Tuplet.”
Previously a company member at Joffrey Ballet in Chicago for five years, Winton left in 2014 to join the national tour of the Broadway musical “Dirty Dancing” — she played Penny, the pregnant resort dancer — which kept her on the road for two years.
She was freelancing out of New York last year when she got word from a dance teacher that Aspen Santa Fe Ballet was looking for guest artists to perform in its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
She landed a spot in the show and spent a month here for its December run. It had been three years since she’d done a full ballet production.
“So it was a mental and physical test but it also reminded me how much I missed company life,” Winton said outside the Aspen Santa Fe rehearsal studio last week. “I had gotten to a point where I had experienced a lot of different things and I could take all that I had experienced and bring it back to a company setting and it would be a whole new thing.”
Her work on “The Nutcracker” helped earn Winton a place as a company member.
Since arriving, Winton’s been inspired, she said, working alongside gifted dancers who can move fluidly from style to style and guest choreographer to guest choreographer — dancers who could pull of “The Nutcracker” and with whom she is currently rehearsing the aggressively contemporary “Tuplet,” which includes cutting-edge multimedia aspects.
“The exceptional thing about this company is that the dancers are so versatile — they go do ‘Nutcracker’ and then they turn around and they do ‘Tuplet,’ which is so different,” she said. “There are very few companies that can excel at both.”
A San Francisco native, Winton was trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and worked primarily in classical technique until her time at Joffrey led her into some more modern and contemporary works. As she begins her tenure in Aspen, Winton is excited about the challenges and risks that dancers are pushed to take here.
“As an artist it’s all about trying new things and being open to that and not being afraid to fall on your face and make a mistake,” she said. “Especially with a classical background, you have this sense of ‘Well, I have to be perfect.’ But I believe that finding the human aspect of the dancing is the most interesting and it’s the best way to connect with people.”
The nurturing creative environment at Aspen Santa Fe and the tight-knit company, she believes, emboldens dancers to do their best work.
“I don’t feel held back at all here, I don’t feel suppressed in any way,” she said. “To get that kind of support and encouragement is exceptional in this industry.”